Crowd at Lehigh University's Brown and White BBQ on Founder's Day Weekend.

Brown & White BBQ Celebrates Lehigh Leaders

The Founder’s Weekend event featured the unveiling of the senior class numbers, the presentation of walking sticks to student leaders, food trucks and student performances.

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

Photography by

Christa Neu

The Lehigh community gathered on the UC Lawn on Friday evening for the Brown & White BBQ, the centerpiece of the newly expanded Founder’s Weekend. The new event format allowed for the inclusion of parents and families on campus for Family Weekend. Other weekend events include a Volunteer Summit, a dinner to recognize Distinguished Alumni Award winners and those donors whose names have been added to Leadership Plaza, and the groundbreaking for the Health, Science and Technology Building

This year’s celebration moved the traditional ceremony to the UC Lawn and out of Packer Church, where Founder’s Day ceremonies have been held in the past. The event also commemorated the large-scale, celebratory launch of GO: The Campaign for Lehigh one year ago.

The Marching 97 and Lehigh cheerleaders marched from STEPS to the stage, where Ric Hall, vice president for student affairs, greeted the crowd. Hall introduced Lehigh President John D. Simon ‘19P, who was officially installed during a historic 2015 Founder’s Day celebration that marked Lehigh’s 150th anniversary. 

The Marching 97 band at Lehigh University's Brown and White BBQ

Simon listed the university’s accomplishments in the year since the launch of the campaign

“Much has happened since then. We are on target to welcome the inaugural class into our new College of Health next fall. Building C on the Mountaintop Campus is complete and open for business. Chandler-Ullmann has been newly renovated and modernized, and SouthSide Commons has opened to rave reviews. We are planning for Phase Two of the New Residential Houses, and the Health, Science and Technology Building is on track for completion by 2021,” he said. “We can all take pride in the shared accomplishments of our community. And likewise, we all share in the responsibilities that come with this territory as well. So thank you for all of your investing in Lehigh’s success.”

Simon introduced Kevin Clayton ‘84 ‘13P, Chair of the Lehigh Board of Trustees, who described the first Founder’s Day, which was held in Packer Church in 1879 to honor the legacy of Lehigh founder Asa Packer a few months after his death. Founder’s Day has since served as a chance to remember Packer’s leadership and generosity, said Clayton. He went on to describe Packer as a “man of action” who “saw a need for a school that would combine a technical and a classical education. Today we call this ‘interdisciplinary,’ but there was probably no word for that back then.”

Clayton continued, “As members of the Lehigh community, we share his legacy today and every day that you’re here. Like Asa, we have many passions and pursuits. And like Asa, each one of us are problem solvers and leaders. That’s why you’re here at Lehigh. We are known for jumping in, rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done. So today we are here to say: To Asa, thank you for setting us on this path of action and impact. Thank you all for following in his footsteps.” 

Students sit on blanket at Lehigh University's Brown & White BBQ

Simon and Clayton then presented to each of three student leaders—Will Pemberton ’20, president of the Class of 2020; Julia Pardee ’21, president of the undergraduate Student Senate; and Eugene Rohrer ’22G, president of the Graduate Student Senate—with a walking stick and a medallion. The walking stick, an object in which Packer took great pride, “was a sign of maturity, responsibility and wisdom,” said Clayton. 

Pemberton, Pardee and Rohrer spoke of their leadership experiences at Lehigh. 

Pemberton, who is pursuing a finance major and a minor in political science and serves as chair of the Lehigh Minority Business Alliance, described arriving at Lehigh from Chicago, the first in his family to attend college. 

Being elected class president a few weeks later, he said, “solidified a platform for me to engage in meaningful relationships with the members of my class and the members of the Lehigh community. Looking back on my Lehigh experience, I value the commitments I made to this community that allowed me to contribute to conversations and subsequent action to effect lasting change...I stand before you as a witness to a Lehigh with a growing human footprint that reflects a commitment to ensuring those with whom we congregate are different, and provides a diversity of thought and experience, along the lines of culture, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status and gender. A Lehigh with a growing physical footprint that will ensure the members of our community from all walks of life have the invaluable resources at their disposal to pursue endeavors, in and outside of the classroom, that embody their passion to solve the world's most pressing issues alongside their peers.”

Pardee, who is pursuing a marketing and business information systems major with a minor in real estate, noted her eight years of participation in student government and how, over time, her “impression of an effective leader has changed drastically.”

“I always knew a leader is a force to be reckoned with, someone who evokes passion and motivates their team. On the surface, a compelling leader is organized, strategic and productive. But really, effective leadership is about the people you lead,” she said. “Before you can ever take a risk and go beyond the conventional limits, you need to have people who you can rely on, people who will take risks with you. And most importantly, people who are willing to fail with you. Lehigh is full of these people, and they continuously amaze me every day I wake up and walk across this campus. We are all so fortunate to be part of such a dynamic community, and as leaders, it is our job to leverage these differences and push our peers to do their best.”

Rohrer, who is in his third year of graduate studies in the psychology department, spoke of the leadership of the “inspiring individuals” he’s encountered in the graduate community. 

“All of these individuals are willing and eager to serve as advocates for the graduate student body. This desire to serve exists in all the leaders in the graduate community. They are the ones willing to add to their already busy schedules and work on behalf of their peers to make sure that all graduate students have the resources they need to be able to do their best work here at Lehigh,” he said. “Graduate student leaders are those who are willing to take the additional responsibility of serving and advocating. But why? What makes graduate student leaders want to serve their community?  From my experience working with the Graduate Student Senate, it's become clear to me that it's a strong sense of empathy and compassion.” 

The program concluded with the unveiling of the senior class numbers in front of the Clayton University Center at Packer Hall. The evening continued with a Battle of the Bands and other student performances. 

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

Photography by

Christa Neu

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